15 Best iPhone Apps for Newbies (2012)

All the focus on the iPhone 5 has been about the hardware, but it's the apps that matter most. Here are 15 must-have apps for your new iPhone.

Apple iPhone apps

All the latest talk about the iPhone 5 is on the hardware, like a bigger screen, faster chip, LTE support, but it's the apps that matter most. Lucky for iPhone owners, iOS apps are some of the best on the mobile market. Here are 15 apps – some classic, some new -- that must be on your new iPhone.

Instagram
Instagram

The iPhone has emerged as the go-to camera for amateurs and professionals. And the photo app that has taken the mobile world by storm is Instagram (free). Average-looking photos become works of art using Instagram's filters. Instagram integrates tightly with Facebook – Facebook bought Instagram earlier this year for a cool $1 billion – letting you share your photo creations on social networks.

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Weather+
Weather+

Ask Siri about weather conditions, and the artificial intelligence engine will give you a voice response using information likely gleaned from Apple's built-in weather app. But if you want something a little more visibly pleasing or want to know temperature changes throughout the day or the highs and lows throughout the week, you'll want to tap Weather+ (free).

iWork
iWork

Some of the best iOS apps come from Apple itself, not including ones built into the operating system. Apple's iWork (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) productivity apps, which cost around $10 each, turn the iPhone into a business tool. That's not to say you'll be reading and writing long missives using Pages or creating or giving a presentation using Keynote on your iPhone. Rather, you'll be able to at least view important documents quickly and easily.

Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone (free) is another critical app from Apple. This location-based app has led to stories about the police tracking down and catching iPhone thieves. With Find My iPhone, you can use another iOS device to find your lost or stolen iPhone. On a side note, you can also track the location of other iPhones and iPads under your Apple account with this app, like, say, maybe your teenager's iPhone. Shhh.

SecureSafe
SecureSafe

One of our favorite iPhone apps is SecureSafe, which stores all your passwords in the cloud. The fact that passwords are accessible on a mobile device makes finding them a snap, as opposed to, say, a laptop that needs to be fired up or a Wi-Fi-only iPad that lacks connectivity. It's also nice to know that passwords aren't stored locally. Now you don't need to use a single password for everything. SecureSafe is free for up to 50 passwords and files up to 10MB.

Facebook
Facebook

There's a reason Facebook's stock is sputtering: lack of a good mobile advertising model. However, people are accessing the popular social network on their iPhones in droves via a native Facebook app. If you're a heavy Facebook user, the Facebook app (free) is your first download.

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CNN
CNN

Got news? One of the great features on the iPhone is that it delivers news at your fingertips. You're never the last to know. But if you want to be alerted when news breaks, you'll need a native news app instead of bookmarked Safari Web page. The best iPhone news app in the Apple iTunes Store is CNN. Best of all, it's free (unlike, say, the New York Times app).

Evernote
Evernote

The iPhone is handy (as in, close at hand) for jotting down notes. If you're a casual note taker, the built-in Apple Notes app is good enough. If you're a serious note taker, you'll need a heavy duty app. Evernote (free) is the king of note taking iOS apps. With Evernote, you can take notes, voice recordings and even pictures – all stored and retrieved in an easy-to-use filing system.

Flashlight
Flashlight

It's one of the most overlooked apps on the iPhone. But when you need it, you really need it. We're talking about a flashlight app. While there are many in the iTunes Store, we like the Flashlight app (free). It turns on quickly and uses the iPhone's camera flash to deliver a concentrated beam, rather than the light from the home screen.

FlightTrack Pro
FlightTrack Pro

There still isn't a better way to check on flights than the tried-and-true FlightTrack Pro ($10) for the iPhone. It's a classic, sure, and one of the best apps on the iTunes Store. Whether you're trying to catch a flight or pick someone up, this app is invaluable. If you don't have this app before heading to the airport, you'll probably download it as soon as you get there.

Instapaper
Instapaper

This app gained instant fame because it solved a digital age-old problem: How can I read cool Web stuff later? Enter Instapaper ($4), an app that renders a Web page in a readable format and then makes it available on any Instapaper-supported device, from PC to the iPhone and vice-versa. In fact, Instapaper is so popular that Apple built in similar functionality in iOS – but it isn't as good.

AIM
AIM

The iPhone's many apps, from gaming to banking, dilute its primary function as a communications tool. People can now get a hold of you all sorts of ways: Text messaging, telephone call, email, social networking, to name a few. You'll need an app to add instant messaging to the mix. We use the AIM ($3) app, which does a great job managing conversations. (Honorable mention, along these lines: Skype)

Pandora Radio
Pandora Radio

The iPhone's roots are in the iPod and music, so it just makes sense to have a great music app. We're going with Pandora Radio (free), which delivers songs in all kinds of genres. It's an exciting way to go, rather than rehashing old playlists and songs from your iTunes library. Pandora stations are fresh and unpredictable. Right now, we're listening to Flamenco Radio.

Tweetbot
Tweetbot

If you use Twitter, you need a Twitter app on your iPhone; Twitter and mobile go hand-in-hand. Yet there are so many Twitter apps to choose from, and so little space on the iPhone home screen. Let's make it easy: Tweetbot ($3). We've tried them all (or nearly all) and have settled on Tweetbot. It's just a well-designed iPhone app that manages timelines and lists.

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Banking App
Banking App

Did you pay the electricity bill? Need to transfer funds quickly? Where's the nearest ATM? Download a bank's official iPhone app (free) from the App Store, and you'll feel a lot safer about mobile banking – more so than visiting a bank's website on mobile Safari. Truth is, iPhones and banks go together like deposits and withdrawals.